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Depending on where your radiation treatment is located, hair loss could occur due to the hair follicles being sensitive to radiation.  Although hair loss will be different for every patient undergoing radiation, those that do experience hair loss usually begin to notice a difference after three weeks of the start of their radiation. Leaving your hair short may help with maintaining the hair as it begins to fall out.

Depending on the amount of radiation, hair loss could be temporary or permanent, especially if you are receiving another treatment like chemotherapy at the same time.  If the hair loss is expected to re grow after treatment you will begin to notice this change about 3-6 months after treatment ends.

The skin on your scalp is extremely sensitive to radiation. You may notice that it becomes sunburned and looks pink or inflamed. Two to three weeks after treatment begins your scalp may become dry and itchy. This will improve around two weeks after your treatment ends.  During this time follow these suggestions to help minimize any reactions associated with radiation treatment:

  • Avoid frequent shampooing, but use a mild shampoo when doing so
  • Warm water is best to use on your scalp, do not rub or scratch, it can irritate the area. Always pat the area dry with a soft towel.
  • Avoid hair sprays, heat sources, combing or brushing, permanent or colored hair dyes.
  • Protect your scalp from the sun, cold, and wind. The Image Recovery Centers® carry hats, scarves, sleep wear, and wigs to help you with head covering options. To view our headwear products, please click here.

Resource: The Cleveland Clinic, 1999